Infrastructure investment was one of the areas President Barack Obama singled out as "necessary for America to win the future" in a speech this week on the economy at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
President Barack Obama jogs across the tarmac to shakes hands with people gathered to watch his arrival on Air Force One at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C., Dec. 6, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Obama spoke about the compromise working its way through the Capitol to extend Bush-era tax cuts and extend unemployment benefits. But, he said, "even if we take these and other steps to boost our recovery in the short term, we're also going to have to make some serious decisions about our economy in the long run. We've got to look ahead -- not just to the next year but to the next 10 years, the next 20 years. We've got to ask ourselves where will the new jobs come from? What will it take to get them? And what will it take to keep the American Dream alive for our children and our grandchildren? ...
"That's why even as we scour the budget for cuts and savings in the months ahead, I will continue to fight for those investments that will help America win the race for the jobs and industries of the future -- and that means investments in education and innovation and infrastructure. I will be fighting for that."
While the Recovery Act has helped increase investment in infrastructure projects, Obama said, we've got a long way to go.
"We're the nation that built the Transcontinental Railroad. We're the nation that took the first airplane into flight. We constructed a massive Interstate Highway System. We introduced the world to the Internet. America has always been built to compete. And if we want to attract the best jobs and businesses to our shores, we've got to be that nation again."
Or watch the video:
Throughout history, Obama said, these types of investments have had the support of both Democrats and Republicans.
"It was Abraham Lincoln who launched the Transcontinental Railroad and opened the National Academy of Sciences. He did it in the middle of a war, by the way. ut he knew this was so important we had to make these investments for future generations. Dwight Eisenhower helped build our highways. Republican members of Congress worked with FDR to pass the G.I. Bill.
"More recently, infrastructure bills have found support on both sides of the congressional aisle. .... So the point is there should not be any inherent ideological differences that prevent Democrats and Republicans from making our economy more competitive with the rest of the world. If we're willing to put aside short-term politics, if our objective is not simply winning elections but winning the future -- then we should be able to get our act together here, because we are all Americans and we are in this race together.
"So those of us who work in Washington have a choice to make in the coming weeks and months. We can focus on what's necessary for each party to win the news cycle or the next election. We can do what we've been doing. Or we can do what this moment demands, and focus on what's necessary for America to win the future."
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials praised the president for "continuing to shine a national spotlight on the critical issue of transportation investment" and used the occasion to call for a robust, multiyear highway and transit reauthorization bill.
In a press release, the association noted, "Not since President Dwight D. Eisenhower, championed the construction of a national Interstate Highway System has a president spoken as often about the need to invest in the nation's essential surface transportation networks."
You can read the entire speech at the White House website.